Published: 18:38, 10 October 2019
| Updated: 18:41, 10 October 2019
At least 2,771 locations have been identified by police scouring the countryside around New Ash Green in the search for missing mum-of-five Sarah Wellgreen.
A year on from when the 46–year-old vanished from her home in Bazes Shaw, expert search investigator PS Ryan Law told Woolwich Crown Court that to date 1,250 sites had been searched with 115 officers employed each day.
An initial search radius of 300 metres was set up around her home, which was then expanded to three miles.
But when police began looking at her ex partner Ben Lacomba’s movements, a search radius of six miles was established - using a theory of where someone might have been able to get to and bury a body within the times his car was alleged to be captured on CCTV in the early hours of October 10.
The 2,771 potential locations were identified using a strategy devised from data from known cases and using information based on the muddy condition of Lacomba’s car the day after Sarah disappeared, along with CCTV evidence of his car’s alleged movement out of New Ash Green to Plaxdale Green Road on the night she disappeared.
They were looking for a site where a car could leave the road and get muddy, considering the weather conditions were relatively dry in the days before Sarah disappeared.
He explained: “The search is conducted using two different skill levels. The first is victim recovery dogs which are trained to detect fluid - human bodily fluid - they’re often known as scent dogs or cadaver dogs. Each area is searched by a pair of victims recovery dogs, and this is followed by a team of licensed search officers.”
These teams consisted of a sergeant and six officers who would conduct a search of the area.
Water search sites were also considered, with marine units brought in along with recovery dogs, which are taken across areas of water on a boat to detect any scent in the water.
Prosecutors Alison Morgan QC also asked the typical time it took to bury a body, and PS Law said it was an hour and a half.
This time was used in conjunction with CCTV evidence of the alleged movement of Lacomba’s car in the early hours of October 10, which was seen on CCTV driving south out of New Ash Green to Plaxdale Green Road, where it disappeared for two hours before being seen returning along the same route.
A six-mile search radius was then set up based on where someone could get to in fifteen minutes from Plaxdale Green Road, bury a body, and then return in another fifteen minutes.
Marine divers had also gone to Greenhithe to search areas of the Thames and soil experts had been employed in other areas.
Lacomba’s defence suggested that if the CCTV did not show Lacomba’s car, then the search had been misdirected.
Read more from the trial:
It had not taken into account, they suggested, such possibilities that someone could have left voluntarily and then come to harm in another location, leading to the possibility that Sarah “could be anywhere.”
Lacomba denies murder. The trial continues.